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Creating the computer player: an engaging and collaborative approach to introduce computational thinking by combining ‘unplugged’ activities with visual programming


Ongoing research is being conducted on appropriate course design, practices and teacher interventions for improving the efficiency of computer science and programming courses in K-12 education. The trend is towards a more constructivist problem-based learning approach. Computational thinking, which refers to formulating and solving problems in a form that can be efficiently processed by a computer, raises an important educational challenge. Our research aims to explore possible ways of enriching computer science teaching with a focus on development of computational thinking. We have prepared and evaluated a learning intervention for introducing computer programming to children between 10 and 14 years old; this involves students working in groups to program the behavior of the computer player of a well-known game. The programming process is split into two parts. First, students design a high-level version of their algorithm during an ‘unplugged’ pen & paper phase, and then they encode their solution as an executable program in a visual programming environment. Encouraging evaluation results have been achieved regarding the educational and motivational value of the proposed approach.


Computational thinking; Computer science; Project-based learning; Collaborative learning; Unplugged activities; Visual programming; Educational Technology; Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL)

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Italian Journal of Educational Technology (IJET) | ISSN (print) 2532-4632 | ISSN (online) 2532-7720